flying voters

7 out of 10 Pinoy voters expect vote-buying on May 10 – SWS

7 out of 10 Pinoy voters expect vote-buying on May 10 – SWS
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Seven out of 10 Filipino voters expect vote-buying to occur in their localities during the May 10 elections, a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

The special SWS Pre-election Survey, conducted from March 19 to 22, found 71 percent of registered voters expect vote-buying to take place in the coming polls.

Expectations of vote-buying increased from 57 percent in May 2007 to 63 percent in February 2010, and 71 percent in March 2010, the SWS said.

Compared to expectations of vote-buying, SWS said fewer percentages expect the following election irregularities to happen: cheating in the counting of votes (51 percent), flying voters (48 percent), harassment of voters (45 percent), and use of violence during the election campaign period (37 percent).

In the February 2010 pre-election survey, 78 percent expect voting to be clean and orderly in their precinct, and 68 percent expect the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to honestly count the votes.

However, 56 percent expect cheating in vote-counting at some levels, not limited to precincts only.

The new SWS survey showed that grassroots expectations of election irregularities in 2010 and 2007 are markedly higher compared to previous campaigns in 2004, 2001 and 1992.

In 2007, expectations of election irregularities were steady between February and mid-April, but declined from mid-April to early May.

“Compared to the May 2007 survey, expectations of election irregularities have increased in February 2010 and then in March 2010,” the SWS said.

Expectations of cheating in vote-counting increased from 45 percent in May 2007 to 49 percent in February 2010 and 51 percent in March 2010.

Expectations of harassment of voters increased from 30 percent in May 2007 to 34 percent in February 2010 and 45 percent in March 2010.

Expectations of the use of violence during the election campaign period slightly increased to 37 percent in March 2010 from 31 percent in February 2010, the first time SWS tested the issue.

“The expectations that there will be harassment of voters and use of violence during the election campaign period are higher in Mindanao than in the other three areas,” the SWS said.

Six out of 10 (60 percent) in Mindanao expect the harassment of voters to occur in their own locality, higher than those in balance Luzon (43 percent), Metro Manila (38 percent) and Visayas (36 percent) who expect the same.

On the possibility of the use of violence during the election campaign period, 52 percent in Mindanao expect this to happen.

Only about one-third in Metro Manila (35 percent), balance Luzon (32 percent) and Visayas (30 percent) believe that there will be violence during the campaign period in their locality.

The survey showed that expectation of vote-buying will occur in their respective localities is high in all areas.

In particular, reported expectation of vote-buying happening in their locality is slightly higher in Visayas (75 percent) and Mindanao (75 percent) than in balance Luzon (69 percent) and Metro Manila (66 percent).

A majority in Metro Manila and Mindanao expect cheating and flying voters to happen in their areas.

“Expectations of cheating in the counting of votes and flying voters are higher in Metro Manila and Mindanao than in balance Luzon and Visayas,” the SWS said.

Sixty percent in Mindanao and 58 percent in Metro Manila expect that there will be cheating in the counting of votes in their localities.

Most of those from Visayas (57 percent) and balance Luzon (52 percent), however, do not expect cheating in vote-counting to happen.

On the possibility of flying voters during the May 2010 elections, 60 percent in Mindanao and 57 percent in Metro Manila expect this to happen. In contrast, 62 percent in Visayas and 56 percent in balance Luzon do not expect the occurrence of flying voters.

In the February 2010 pre-election survey, most registered voters expect that voting will be clean and orderly in their own precinct, with 78 percent agreeing and six percent disagreeing with the statement, “In the coming elections, voting will be clean and orderly in our precinct,” for a net agreement of +71.

Expectation of clean and orderly voting is much higher in February 2010 than in February 2007, when 60 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed with the statement, for a net agreement of +46, SWS said.

In February 2010, expectation on having clean and orderly voting in their own precinct in the May 10 elections is slightly higher in Visayas (+77) than in balance Luzon (+71), Mindanao (+70) and Metro Manila (+66).

In February 2007, net agreement to the test statement was also higher in the provincial areas (+46 to +49) than in Metro Manila (+32).

The survey also showed that 68 percent of Filipinos agree, while only eight percent disagree that, “The Comelec will honestly count the votes of the people in the coming elections,” for a net agreement of +60.

Belief in the Comelec honestly counting the votes in the elections is higher in February 2010 than in February 2007, when 53 percent agreed and 21 percent disagreed, for a net of +32, the SWS said.

Net agreement is higher in Visayas (+71) than in balance Luzon (+60), Mindanao (+56) and Metro Manila (+50), it added.

Fifty-six percent of respondents agree, while 16 percent disagree, that “In the coming May 2010 elections, there might be cheating in the count in some levels, but not limited to the precinct only,” for a net agreement of +39.

The expectation that there might be some cheating in the counting of votes slightly increased in February 2010 compared to February 2007, when 48 percent agreed and 21 percent disagreed, for a net agreement of +27.

By area, net agreement to the test statement is higher in Metro Manila (+50) and balance Luzon (+43) than in Mindanao (+36) and the Visayas (+29).

The survey used face-to-face interviews of 2,100 registered voters, divided into random samples of 300 in Metro Manila and 600 each in balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

It has sampling error margins of plus or minus 2.2 percentage point for national percentages, plus or minus six points for Metro Manila, and plus or minus four points for balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The February 2010 survey was sponsored by The Asia Foundation.

Comelec delays alarm poll watchdog groups

Comelec delays alarm poll watchdog groups
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Preparations for the May 10 elections have become a catch-as-catch-can affair, alarming poll watchdog groups.

With a month to go before the first nationwide computerized balloting, the Church-led Bantay ng Bayan and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) said that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was way behind its schedules.

The groups said in a press conference Tuesday that the Comelec had resorted to “shortcuts,” eroding confidence that the vote would be credible.

Bantay ng Bayan, an umbrella group composed of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, and Namfrel voiced apprehensions at the weak links on the election preparations.

Namfrel had served as the Comelec’s citizens’ arm in the past elections, a role that it would not play this time. The Comelec gave this role in May to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Bantay ng Bayan noted the voters list had about 3 million multiple registrants and said that the security marking on the ballot and the indelible ink, which would ground so-called “flying voters,” were weak.

The groups also urged the Comelec to implement a random manual audit before the proclamation saying it could be the last best safeguard against electoral fraud.

System secure

Comelec Chair Jose Melo dismissed fears that the automated system is insecure.

“There may be failures of elections, but only isolated in isolated areas, just like in the manual system.”

He said that there were enough safeguards against vote tampering and other forms of electoral fraud, citing multiple copies of election returns and ballots stored inside the counting machines.

Melo also has repeatedly stated that the system could not be easily hacked to tamper with the results.

Comelec officials have said that they had counted 700,000 multiple registrants but that they had established a database of these people and lists containing their names would be distributed to the precincts before the polling.

Namfrel officials said random checks on the computerized voters list on various parts of the country showed many errors that could be used by poll operatives to manipulate the election results.

Disabled safeguards

Namfrel chair Jose Cuisia said that his group was concerned at the “disablement or delay of certain safeguard provisions,” which ensured credible results.

Asked if Namfrel and its allied organizations did not see credible results on May 10, Cuisia and other officials said that what they had seen so far had not yet passed the threshold where they could say that the system would produce dubious results.

“We are not among those who are saying we fear there is failure of elections. We are hopeful that these problems are resolved,” he said.

David Balangue, another Namfrel executive, added: “There are indications but we need to be extremely vigilant.”

UV lamps

Cuisia cited the wrong ultraviolet (UV) ink that the Comelec and its electronic election provider, Smartmatic-TIM Corp., had decided to use for its security mark as one of the alarming developments in the poll preparations.

Because the precinct count optical scan machine was unable to read the UV ink and rejected the ballots, Smartmatic-TIM had decided to turn off the machines’ built-in UV reader and use portable UV lamps instead.

“The portable lights were not included in the original budget of the project and their use now adds an extra step in a new process which the BEIs (Board of Election Inspectors) are only beginning to learn,” Cuisia said.

The Namfrel officials also voiced apprehensions over the removal of digital signatures and the lack of transparency on the source code review. They urged the poll body to allow public review of the automated system’s back up process in case of software failure.

According to Namfrel, these security measures were provided in the law to ensure that there were no suspicious programs in the voting machines that could undermine the conduct of the polls.

Centenarian voters

Eric Alvia, Namfrel secretary general, warned against multiple voters in the national registry. He noted that Bantay Bayan inspections on random voters lists from various parts of the country showed errors like multiple identical names and deceased persons on the rolls.

There were also “questionable” numbers of centenarian voters in some towns. Mandaluyong, for instance, has 187 voters who are at least 100 years old, Alvia said.

Cuisia said the Comelec should post the voters lists in prominent places to allow voters ample time to check their precincts under the clustered precinct scheme.

Also Tuesday, Melo said that the Comelec en banc had ordered in a resolution the reassignment of its regional executives, led by officials implicated in the “Hello Garci” scandal, ahead of the elections.

“Principal among them is the reassignment of Director Sumalipao from the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) to Davao [Region],” Melo said in a press briefing.

“I’m not saying he is guilty of any shortcoming or malfeasance or whatever but what I’m saying is the perception of the public is that you are involved there. So as an administrator, I have to transfer you,” Melo explained.

Garci’s men out by May

Sumalipao was said to be a subordinate of disgraced Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who allegedly conspired with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to rig the 2004 balloting, a charge she has denied. Sumalipao has denied that he was ever under Garcillano.

Melo has promised lawmakers that Comelec officials with connections to Garcillano will be out of the picture in the May polling.

He said that 10 regional officials were included in the resolution that would become effective immediately once they received the order. Melo said provincial election directors would be reshuffled next week.

The reassignment was part of the Comelec’s measure to distance its officers from local politicians they had grown familiar with during the election period.

Voting populations improbably high, Numbers don’t add up

Voting populations improbably high, Numbers don’t add up
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The numbers don’t add up.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently revealed that there were around 700,000 double or multiple registrants on the national voters’ list.

But poll watchdogs and a statistician said the number could be higher, citing population figures from 2007 and the Comelec’s registration numbers as of March 2009.

In particular, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and a census expert cited the “unrealistic figures” for population and registrants in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), considered to be the country’s cheating capital.

The ARMM, composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Sulu, has a registered voting population of 1.6 million as of early 2009, according to the Comelec.

Its population, based on the 2007 census, was 4.1 million. The region has 117 municipalities and 2,486 barangays (villages).

Census data showed that the ARMM population growth rate was 5.4 percent, more than double the national average of 2 percent.

Not realistic

Redencion Ignacio, head of the census department at the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), said the ARMM figures were unrealistic. “The growth rate of the region overall is 5 percent. It’s not realistic,” she said.

The numbers have caused so much confusion among government data gatherers that a technical committee is studying whether to accept the numbers as valid or not, Ignacio said.

He said there were reports that local ARMM officials had ordered former residents to come back to the region for the census. There were also reports of intimidation and harassment of census takers in the region, poll watchdogs said.

Asked if the census takers, who were teachers, were ordered to inflate the numbers, Ignacio said it was anybody’s guess.

Election observers said ARMM officials sought to increase the region’s population so that they could carve out new districts, which means higher local budget allocations.

Ghost barangays

Namfrel’s vice president for membership Damaso Magbual said he was not surprised by the questionable numbers from the ARMM.

In 1984, the group found “ghost barangays” in Lanao del Sur. “They didn’t exist, but they had voters’ lists and precincts,” Magbual said.

He said he obtained the voters’ list for Pasig City in 2004 and found out, through house calls, that there were many fictitious voters on the registry.

Magbual said the fraud was easy to do: Census takers often list households using fictitious house numbers on a very real street.

Some inflate the number of members in a household. “The list said there were 18 voters in the house and then you go there and see a very small house,” he said.

If past elections had fictitious barangays, the 2010 automated polls could give rise to ghost precincts, another poll observer said.

Ghost precincts

Ramon Casiple, chair of the Consortium of Electoral Reforms, said the May 10 elections could give rise to “ghost precincts,” which would be more sinister.

Casiple said an “unscrupulous” election officer or an election operative could collect all the fraudulent names in one precinct and hoard the ballots for it.

Those who want to manipulate the results of the polls can shade the ballots in favor of their candidates and feed them into the machines.

“The machine has no capability to recognize this fraud. When the reporting comes, these ballots will be included in the counting,” Casiple said.

More dangerous

Casiple said this was more dangerous than “flying voters” or “dagdag-bawas” (vote-padding and vote-shaving) as it would be difficult to detect and trace the fraudulent entries in the machines.

Aside from population numbers, Namfrel also analyzed the number of registered voters based on the Comelec’s count as of March 2009, before the deadline for registration expired last October. [The registration was extended.]

Paralleling the sharp spike in population growth was the increase in number of registered voters in the ARMM, which enjoyed double-digit jump in 2009, Namfrel said.

Lanao del Sur’s voting population grew by 16 percent to 459,012 in 2009 from 396,722 in 2007; Sulu by 12 percent to 280,257 from 250,571; Tawi-Tawi by 11 percent to 156,027 from 140,232; and Basilan by 8 percent to 195,845 from 181,445.

Maguindanao recorded the biggest increase at 78 percent, from 336,774 to 601,057.

That all five provinces in the ARMM enjoyed robust increase in voting populations was peculiar, if compared with the region’s past data.

Comparing the 2000 and 2004, figures, Basilan and Maguindanao saw declines in the number of registered voters, at -14.5 percent and -15 percent, respectively. The other provinces experienced single-digit growths, the highest at 7.9 percent.

Namfrel also noted that the data on population growth and registered voters from various government institutions did not jive, leading to “absurd” findings.

Improbable ratios

A comparison of numbers—actual and projected—from the National Statistics Office, the NSCB and the Comelec shows “improbable” ratio of voters and population in several provinces, Namfrel said.

In Benguet province, for instance, the number of registered voters on the Comelec list was 328,010, as of March 2009.

Contrast this with the 2007 census that showed Benguet’s population at 372,533. As a result, the registered voters accounted for 88 percent of the total population.

Even if the population was adjusted to the 2009 level using NSCB’s projected growth rate of 1.9 percent, the percentage of adults was still a high 83 percent, way above the national average.

High voting population

Based on data from these sources, Namfrel identified other provinces with very high voting populations vis-à-vis their total populations. These are Lanao del Norte (87 percent), Misamis Oriental (87 percent), South Cotabato (83 percent), Zamboanga del Sur (96 percent), and Cebu (86 percent).

Namfrel said the average percentage of registered voters against population was 51 percent, “and it ranges from a low of 45 percent to a high of 60 percent for the different provinces.”

Thus, these data, Namfrel said, should ring alarm bells in the Comelec.

“Unless there are convincing and fool-proof explanations for these high numbers it is very likely that the data on the provinces mentioned above are suspect as erroneous,” it said.

Release voters’ registry

In a report card on the Comelec’s preparations for the country’s first automated elections, Namfrel said the improbabilities, when not corrected or acted upon promptly, could become grounds for disqualifying a candidate or even challenge a declaration of a conduct of truly fair and free elections.

Namfrel and other groups urged the poll body to release the computerized voters’ list as soon as possible so that they could check for multiple and double registrants before the precincts open on May 10.

The Comelec said the voters’ registry would be completed by the end of the month.

Comelec acts on list of double registrants

Comelec acts on list of double registrants
By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The cat is out of the bag.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has confirmed the existence of potential “flying voters” that could mar the country’s first nationwide automated elections on May 10.

In a March 10 resolution released over the weekend, the Comelec said its information technology department had found 704,542 voters with double or multiple registration records.

The department also printed a list of voters whose registration records were not valid per precinct and per district, municipality or city, which were disseminated to election officers.

The Comelec ordered the removal of the other registration records of voters with double or multiple registration, and directed the Board of Election Inspectors not to allow them to vote.

The poll body also ordered the deletion of the registration records of the voters in the next hearings of the Election Registration Board.

In October last year, the Comelec said that in cases where voters were found to have registered in two or more districts, the latest registration should prevail and this was the only place where they would be allowed to vote.

In cases where there were double or multiple registrants in the same district, the original registration would prevail.

Comelec officials also earlier said that the double registration could simply be a result of the inadvertent failure to cancel previous records of voters who had changed residences and did not mean a subversion of the balloting.

PPCRV statement

Lawyer Howard Calleja of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) welcomed the Comelec’s disclosure.

The Comelec’s citizen arm had earlier called attention to its discovery of about 40,000 voters entered as “double, multiple or dead registrants” in Davao City and Davao del Sur.

Calleja said the PPCRV would continue checking the voters’ lists in other provinces. “We want to see if the figure is correct. It might be short or whatever,” he said.

Calleja earlier said that if 80 other provinces would have 40,000 questionable voters as in the Davao region, that could translate to about 3 million questionable voters nationwide.

He said that the 700,000 double and multiple registrants found by the Comelec was a significant number of voters that could spell the difference between victory and defeat for candidates.

Lanao Sur voters’ list padded by 200,000

Lanao Sur voters’ list padded by 200,000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

WAO, LANAO DEL SUR—Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. on Tuesday said he was more worried by double registrants and flying voters in his province than by private armies.

Adiong, a Lakas-Kampi-CMD stalwart, said a padded voters’ roll was more likely to undermine the electoral process.

The Lanao del Sur governor said double registrants for instance could vote as many times as they desired to favor certain candidates.

He said there were about 500,000 registered voters in Lanao del Sur today when the number should only be between 300,000 and 350,000.

Adiong said vote-padding might be a result of one person having multiple registrations, nonresidents brought into the province to register as voter or even multiple voter, minors registered as voters and assumed names.

Names of dead

“It is highly likely these lists also contain the names of dead people,” he said.

By being able to cast their votes in the province, “these supposedly nonqualified voters could subvert the will of the real electorate,” Adiong said.

He said that as early as 2007, he had proposed that the Commission on Elections clean up its voters’ list, but it went unheeded.

As to the presence of private armies in his province, Adiong said politicians engaged in feuds might have thought they needed more bodyguards.

“The armed men who are usually seen, especially with politicians, could be there due to some people’s need to protect themselves from retaliatory attacks as a result of feuds,” he said.

Credibility

But Abdullah Dalidig, chair of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform and Good Government, said the presence of armed groups could also affect the credibility of the polls.

“They may not have been originally intended for the elections but they can be employed to further the machinations of politicians wanting to gain votes,” he said. Reports from Ryan Rosauro and Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao

Comelec admits double registrants in voters’ list

Comelec admits double registrants in voters’ list
By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—More ballots may be printed than the number of actual voters with the admission of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Wednesday that the 50.7 million registered voters in the May polls included those who had registered twice or more.

At the resumption of a joint congressional committee hearing on poll automation, Comelec officials could not readily provide the number of double registrants but said it was not as big as the 5 million or 3.2 million being projected by some quarters.

Comelec Chair Jose Melo downplayed the controversy and said that boards of election inspectors (BEIs) would be given copies of double registrants with the instruction to disallow them from casting their votes if they were not registered in their precincts.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate panel in the congressional oversight committee, remained apprehensive after Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino admitted that double registrants were included in the total number of registered voters.

He said he did not understand why if Comelec was aware of the double registrants, it would allow the printing of such number of ballots.

“But if indeed they have a list of double registrants, the Comelec could have motu proprio initiated a petition in court to have these names delisted. They would have evidence to prove it. Why did they not do this?” Escudero said.

“However clean or perfect the automation system is, if the list of voters is not clean, there will be opportunity to pad or increase the votes of any candidate,” he said.

“It’s not going to be one ballot for one voter as Comelec had earlier guaranteed to ensure there will be no more extra or fictitious votes to be cast in the elections,” he said.

Escudero said that the excessive number of actual voters raised the possibility of cheating.

Not flying voters

Melo sought to ease apprehensions by saying that many of those double registrations were not “flying voters.” They simply forgot to cancel their earlier registration, ending up being enrolled twice in the voter’s list, he said.

“We should not blow this out of proportion,” he said.

Tolentino and Election Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal explained that the poll body could not delete the names of double registrants because under the law, only the courts could do this.

But both Tolentino and Larrazabal said the Comelec had issued guidelines as early as October last year in dealing with double registrants: If there are two registrations of a voter in the same city, the second registration won’t be considered; if the registration was in two cities, the recent registration would be considered.

3.2M double registrants

Tolentino could not readily give the total number of double registrants, but Howard Calleja, lawyer for the election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said they numbered 3.2 million.

Using a copy of the Comelec’s computerized voter’s list, Calleja said that he extrapolated the figure from the 40,000 double registrants that the group found in Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte.

Larrazabal said that the Comelec was looking into Calleja’s report. He said that the poll body would also like to know more details from retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz about his estimate of 5 million double registrants.

‘Plucked from the air’

Melo said that Cruz’s figure was probably “plucked from the air” and that he did not think the figure was that staggering.

Escudero also disclosed the committee had found that the National Printing Office (NPO) was not using “24/7” all of its machines to print the required number of ballots for May 10.

He said his committee would not allow that the printing of the ballots be outsourced.

Escudero said the Comelec should have known and prepared for the eventuality that NPO would not be able to do its job.